We asked Guest Services Manager Karen Koelewyn at Four Seasons Hotel Austin to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions she could find—not just her own, but also those of the other local connoisseurs, including some she works with every day at the Hotel. Head to the Hill Country for fine dining, great shopping and plenty of live music.
The Best Barbecue
Identifying the best barbecue in Texas has caused many a Capitol filibuster. The Austin area sizzles with candidates, from the upscale Lamberts downtown (try the brown-sugar-and-coffee-rubbed natural brisket with a side of jicama and carrot slaw) and east-side favourite Franklin BBQ, called “the best barbecue in America” by Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton, to nearby small-town joints that serve on butcher paper, such as Kreuz Market in Lockhart (no-sauce spare ribs and jalapeño cheese sausage with a side of German potato salad) and Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano (known for its lean brisket and cabrito).
Killer Mexican Food
Like most of Texas, Austin has killer Mexican food. For classic Tex-Mex, the spicy grilled steaks and enchiladas at Matt’s Famous El Rancho downtown have been local favourites since 1952. Curra’s Grill in south Austin calls itself “the Mother of all Mex,” and its monster homemade tamales are all the convincing you’ll need.
Austin has more live musicians—mainly alternative, blues and jazz—in more local venues than anywhere else in the world. Antone’s nightclub, the first club on Sixth Street, has packed in talent since the summer of 1975, helping launch the career of such Texas artists as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Los Lonely Boys.
The Night Time is the Right Time
For a traditional country-and-western dance experience that dates back to Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, Broken Spoke on Lamar is just the ticket—you can even sign up for the two-step lesson. Things get a bit grittier at the Continental Club, a South Congress venue that evokes rock-and-roll memories of old Cadillacs and Fender guitars.
Austin style is as eclectic as its music. The city boasts its Lone Star share of Western wear and cowboy boots—Allens Boots is famous for traditional cowboy attire, and Heritage Boot offers flashier interpretations. Estilo on Second Street offers some of the city’s hippest fashions. The South Congress zone, or “SoCo,” is home to a raft of specialty shops that offer everything from Bohemian clothing and retro furniture to offbeat toys and outlandish costumes.
The best leg-stretcher near the Hotel is just out the back door, one of the most scenic urban trails in the country, around Lady Bird Lake. One of the best ways to appreciate the city’s beauty and layout is by climbing the 100 steps to the top of Mount Bonnell, where you’ll find a sweeping panorama. The heart of Austin’s outdoor soul is Zilker Botanical Garden and the adjacent Barton Springs Pool west of downtown. The gardens are spectacular, and the nation’s largest natural urban swimming pool maintains an invigorating 68–72ºF (20–22ºC) water temperature.
The Story of Texas
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum provides insight into Texas politics, culture and that Lone Star essence. The three floors of interactive exhibits are easily navigable, and the IMAX theatre immerses visitors in “The Story of Texas,” from the fury of the 1900 Galveston hurricane to a gusher from an East Texas oil derrick.